EAGLE COUNTY – What did you say? Huh? Could you repeat that? I’m sorry I can’t hear you. Did you say turn the TV down? You called? I didn’t hear the phone ring. How many times have you heard those words? Hearing loss is a significant problem.Dear Doc: I was at an event with my sons recently and the music was so loud it actually hurt. Is this dangerous? Should we be more careful about our loud noise exposure?- Ears still ringing in EagleDear Ringing: The statistics are alarming.– Approximately 28 million Americans have some hearing impairment.– Hearing loss affects nearly 17 in 1,000 children under the age of 18.– Hearing loss affects as many as 314 in 1,000 adults over age 65.– Hearing loss affects over 450 in 1,000 adults over 75 years old.– Ten million Americans have suffered irreversible noise induced hearing loss.– 30 million Americans are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day.Noise-induced hearing loss is actually the most common cause of permanent hearing loss. That is important because it is preventable. While it may not be surprising that chronic exposure to loud noise may cause hearing loss, even brief exposure to very loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss. A number of organizations have set levels of noise exposure, which may result in hearing loss. The intensity of noise measured in decibels as well as the length of exposure need to be taken into consideration. Taken from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA, the levels at which hearing damage can occur are as follows:Duration of exposure; sound level dB(A) or decibel measured on the A scale: 8 hours, 90; 4 hours, 95; 2 hours,100; 1 hour, 105; 30 minutes,110; 15 minutes or less, 115.Some experts believe that any long-term exposure to noises over 85 dB may result in long-term hearing loss. To better understand what a decibel is the following noises can be compared to their average decibel level. Noise; sound level dB(A): gunshot 140-170; rock concert 110-120; jack hammer 105-110; lawn mower 95-100; heavy traffic 80-90; conversation at three feet 60; a quiet neighborhood at night 40.Another way to think about is that if you need to shout to hear yourself, have ringing in your ears or temporary loss of hearing after exposure, the noise is too loud and could be damaging. If you can hear the sound coming from someone’s stereo headset less than two feet away, it is too loud as well. If the sound hurts, it may be damaging your ears!To prevent excessive loud noise exposure, follow these simple steps:1) Wear ear protection. Even simple, inexpensive foam earplugs can reduce noise levels by 20 to 25 dB, which may bring the sound into a safe range. Your ears deserve protection if they are hearing any noise above 95-100 dB.2) Do not make more noise to drown out present noise. For example, avoid turning up the stereo in your car to drown out traffic noise, or turning up the TV to hear it over the dishwasher.3) Avoid running several loud appliances or machines at once. Noises can be additive.It is not possible to toughen up or strengthen your hearing. If loud noises do not bother you as much as they used to, you have probably already developed some hearing loss. Other signs of early hearing loss include the loss of high pitch sounds like women’s voices and needing to turn up the volume on the TV or stereo to hear it well. Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, and very difficult to treat. Not even hearing aids can fully correct that type of hearing loss. If you are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss, or think you may have already developed it see your doctor or audiologist. If you do not prevent it, or stop hearing loss from getting worse, you will start sounding a lot like how this article began!Until next week, enjoy our late summer days and protect your ears while you are doing it.Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.Vail, Colorado
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